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In a modern, technologically-advancing world, violent extremism is no longer restricted by geographical borders. While the dynamics around renowned terrorist groups such as Boko Haram and ISIS are, to a large extent, influenced by geopolitics, the emergence and reasons why individuals join them are unique and complex. Their effect is felt widely too, with tragedies in various cities across the world a testament to the global reach of terrorism.

However, a significant number of people who suffer from the effects of terrorist attacks are concentrated in a few regions of the world. It’s in these regions that extremist groups have “customised” their global agendas to fit local dynamics, enabling them to exploit the grievances of communities and families.

The effects of violent extremism have left the lives of individuals, families and societies devastated in numerous instances. The UK has not been immune to extremism, something that has prompted various organisations to take up the fight against this ill. Among them in the UK is SAFE, a social community organisation founded by Fiyaz Mughal (OBE) to ensure that affected families don’t suffer in silence. SAFE offers families the opportunity to speak about their experiences in a safe space, while also coming up with the practical support that meets their individual needs.

SAFE believes that detecting radicalisation early at a local level is one of the most effective ways of tackling extremism. At a family level, it is much easier for members to pick up changes in behaviour and attitude. At SAFE, families can receive strategies and information packs to help them build resilience against terrorism-related messaging.

Personal Tales

The project lead at SAFE, Michael Evans, is someone who can relate to the pain extremism can bring upon a family. His brother, Thomas, travelled to Somalia to join the group Al-Shabaab and was killed a few years after. His death brought untold pain upon Michael and their mother Sally, both of whom had to grapple with not having someone to confide in about Thomas’ decision. On top of the grief, Michael and his mother also had to deal with legal issues and the press. It was an experience that made him realise the importance of having a specialist service that knows the effect of extremism to provide support to other families like his.

Families can play a vital role in preventing and even countering extremism. From encouraging the attitudes that foster non-violence to acting as the first line of defence in identifying signs of radicalisation, families are a vital player in anti-extremism efforts. However, even as organisations appreciate the need for family-centred approaches, there are challenges involved in the process. Also, there are times when families can be part of the issue, especially in instances where the relationship between the child and parent is rocky. To learn more about how families can start the discussion, check out the attached PDF article.

Still, with these issues in mind, SAFE is focused on providing and keeping its support within four central values:

  • Community – The ability of communities to stand firm against extremism is at the core of what SAFE does. The organisation is all about building strong relationships with families and providing long-term support so that families feel they have a safe place to
  • Collaboration – SAFE believes that extremism can be tackled through a collaborative approach that uses other organisations to give comprehensive support.
  • Compassion – The team at SAFE cares about the impact of extremism on the family and society at large. They work to tailor-make a support program that meets the needs of individuals and families.
  • Transparency – SAFE is an independent entity that is open about its work, who it partners with and the actions it considers.